Armagh defender Patrick Burns takes the good out of coronavirus lockdown

Armagh's Patrick Burns hopes there can be a way for the GAA to finish the National League campaigns
Armagh's Patrick Burns hopes there can be a way for the GAA to finish the National League campaigns

ARMAGH defender Patrick Burns says “next year is always another year” if the GAA can’t manage to resume their truncated National League campaigns due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an in-depth interview in today’s Irish News, the Forkhill man casts an eye over the highs and lows of his playing career to date and also seeks out some of the good things that may emerge from the lockdown.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is nature getting back at us and telling us that we need to change our ways, although I would like to take it that way but I don’t necessarily think that’s the cause,” he said.

“I do think that it’s an opportunity to take stock of how we were all living and whether that’s sustainable. And I’m not even talking about the environment, just generally: family life, community life, those kind of things.

“I’m sitting saying this to you now but I can almost guarantee in five or six months when, please God, things are getting back to normal… I’ve been doing that commute to Dublin [for work] and it’ll be back to square one, so I don’t want to come across as a hypocrite but we’ll maybe learn during this time, we’ll enjoy spending more time with our families, enjoy this slower pace to life because there’s nothing wrong with that.”

After overcoming ankle surgery in November, Burns had returned to the Armagh defence and was playing some of the best football of his career in 2020 with the Orchard men looking primed for promotion to Division One.

“I hope we get to finish the League but I don’t know if that’s possible,” the 27-year-old defender said.

“We’d two very difficult games coming up against Roscommon (h) and Clare (a), absolutely nothing guaranteed because we’ve traditionally struggled against both of those teams, but we had the opportunity to get to Division One.

“We’ve been really trying to get there since I’ve been in the squad. It’s the first time to be in a position to do it and not to get that chance. Now, next year is always another year but when you’re so close you’d love just to finish it out.”

In an insightful interview Burns talks about the good and bad days with Armagh since successfully trialling in 2015. The crushing defeat at the hands of Fermanagh in 2018 is one that still niggles him.

“It was always going to be a terrible, negative, ultra-defensive game,” he said.

“It was going to rest on one team making the right decisions at key times and if you go and watch it back we had Jemar [Hall] going through on goal and all I had to do was give it to him and I put it a yard behind him. Nothing comes of it. Had I put that ball in his hands it was highly likely he would have put the ball in the net and we would’ve won that game.

“During the match I can put those mistakes out of my head very quickly but afterwards I’d focus on the things I did wrong. I would say my career has been grand so far. Grand. Around average.”

Burns, who works in Actuary in Dublin and is currently self-isolating in his fiancée’s family home in Burren, praised Kieran McGeeney’s managerial style since becoming involved.

“Kieran is good at making sure that people appreciate a defender's job - whether it’s defending, tackling or turning the ball over - that in itself is a skill.

“When people talk about a skilful footballer, you picture a guy who can strike from ‘45 metres with the outside of the boot or with both feet, and those are skills I’ll absolutely never have. But Kieran’s thing would be: ‘he knows how to run beside a player and knows when to time his tackle so that he doesn’t get beaten or doesn’t give away a foul.’

“One thing I do pride myself on is I give away few fouls.”